I received an electronic synth kit developed by Technology Will Save Us as a gift. It comes in very nice packaging and has enough components to build three slightly different electronics projects, all centered around an NE556 timer chip and an analog speaker.

Unfortunately, the kit itself doesn’t come with any printed instructions–you’ve got to go to a website whose URL is included in the box and click through a rather clunky web interface to figure out what to do with all of the components. The instructions themselves are quite frustrating in that they only serve to explain how to plug the components together–not why these parts are being connected in the way that they are, or what each component is doing. No mention is made of what role the integrated circuit chip plays (the answer: it’s two 555 timers in a single package and converts the RC series into fixed-frequency digital signals) and doesn’t even mention it by name (it’s an NE556), so for all intents and purposes, this kit presents itself to learners as a black box. Not very helpful.

The final major flaw in this kit that really irked me was a notable absence of any circuit diagrams. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by comparable yet cheaper and thoroughly documented kits, but I couldn’t wrap my head around what these synth projects were doing until I sat down and constructed circuit diagrams of each build.

Stutter Synth

I haven’t quite figured this one out yet, but here is what I gathered the circuit diagram looks like based on the circuit board layout.

Atari Punk Console

It turns out this circuit is quite famous, so much so that it has its own Wikipedia page. Here is the circuit as I understand it.

The rest of the Internet can explain this circuit better than me, and there are two resources I particularly liked:

Dub Siren Synth

I don’t really get this circuit either.

Apparently “dub sirens” are a thing, but I couldn’t really tell what this was supposed to sound like.